AIMS: Anti-Apolipoprotein A-1 autoantibodies (anti-ApoA-1 IgG) promote atherogenesis via innate immune receptors, and may impair cellular cholesterol homeostasis (CH). We explored the presence of anti-ApoA-1 IgG in children (5-15 years old) with or without familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), analyzing their association with lipid profiles, and studied their in vitro effects on foam cell formation, gene regulation, and their functional impact on cholesterol passive diffusion (PD).
METHODS: Anti-ApoA-1 IgG and lipid profiles were measured on 29 FH and 25 healthy children. The impact of anti-ApoA-1 IgG on key CH regulators (SREBP2, HMGCR, LDL-R, ABCA1, and miR-33a) and foam cell formation detected by Oil Red O staining were assessed using human monocyte-derived macrophages. PD experiments were performed using a validated THP-1 macrophage model.
RESULTS: Prevalence of high anti-ApoA-1 IgG levels (seropositivity) was about 38% in both study groups. FH children seropositive for anti-ApoA-1 IgG had significant lower total cholesterol LDL and miR-33a levels than those who were seronegative. On macrophages, anti-ApoA-1 IgG induced foam cell formation in a toll-like receptor (TLR) 2/4-dependent manner, accompanied by NF-kB- and AP1-dependent increases of SREBP-2, LDL-R, and HMGCR. Despite increased ABCA1 and decreased mature miR-33a expression, the increased ACAT activity decreased membrane free cholesterol, functionally culminating to PD inhibition.
CONCLUSIONS: Anti-ApoA-1 IgG seropositivity is frequent in children, unrelated to FH, and paradoxically associated with a favorable lipid profile. In vitro, anti-ApoA-1 IgG induced foam cell formation through a complex interplay between innate immune receptors and key cholesterol homeostasis regulators, functionally impairing the PD cholesterol efflux capacity of macrophages.